Legislative Update

PROFS welcomes faculty back to campus as the new semester begins. For those unfamiliar, PROFS is a non-profit membership organization that represents UW-Madison faculty to the Wisconsin Legislature and Congress.

We are proud of our past achievements. During the most recent budget process, PROFS played a key role in securing $86 million in state-supported bonding for the UW-Madison Chemistry Building Project.

In 2011, PROFS led the successful fight to ensure retirement contributions are taken pre-tax, saving the average faculty member about $1,800 per year. Before that, PROFS successfully lobbied for domestic partner benefits and first-day health coverage for faculty and staff. Recent activities at the state level are below.

2015-17 Biennial Budget

PROFS met with more than two dozen legislators and staff throughout the budget process, lobbying for decreased cuts in state funding and the preservation of strong tenure and shared governance for faculty. While the final budget was still much worse than the faculty would have liked, it did include $50 million more for the UW System than the governor had proposed and the attacks on tenure and shared governance, while harsh, were not as punitive as some key legislators wanted them to be.

PROFS took strong stands on these harmful actions. Please see previous posts for statements on budget cuts, tenure, and shared governance. Going forward, PROFS is closely following the work of UW System’s Tenure Policy Task Force and making the case that tenure policy at UW-Madison must meet the standards of the AAUP and peer institutions.

Assembly Bill 305, Limits on Scientific Research

PROFS officially registered and delivered testimony (below) against AB 305, a proposal that would make it illegal to provide or use for experimentation fetal body parts. If passed, the bill would criminalize the use of scientific material previously derived from fetal tissue, which includes stem cell lines that have been in use for more than 30 years.

PROFS will continue to vigorously oppose the proposal, which has far-reaching negative consequences on campus.

The Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety will meet in executive session to vote on the bill on Wednesday, September 9.

Possible Merger of UW Colleges and the Wisconsin Technical College System

PROFS is deeply concerned about the private discussion among Assembly Republicans on the possible realignment of the University of Wisconsin Colleges and Extension and the Wisconsin Technical College System. PROFS shared its concerns in a letter to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester):

“The faculty at UW-Madison urge you and other legislative leaders to reconsider this strategy and instead create a transparent and inclusive process for any review of public higher education in the state”

“UW-Madison faculty welcome an open and consultative discussion on the future of higher education in Wisconsin. We hope to be “at the table,” along with many other stakeholders across the state, as this discussion continues.”

PROFS is funded entirely by faculty contributions. Please consider joining PROFS if you are not a member.

PROFS Asks Speaker Vos for Transparency and Inclusive Process on UW Colleges/Wisconsin Technical College System Discussion

PROFS is deeply concerned about the private discussion among Assembly Republicans on the possible realignment of the University of Wisconsin Colleges and Extension and the Wisconsin Technical College System.

The following letter was hand delivered to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) today.

PROFS Opposes Bill That Limits Scientific Research on Campus

stem_cell_cultures2_01PROFS has officially registered against Assembly Bill 305. The bill, introduced by Representative André Jacque (R-De Pere), would make it illegal to provide or use for experimentation fetal body parts. A public hearing on the bill will be held at 10 am today, Tuesday, August 11, in Room 225 Northwest, State Capitol.

The proposal is the same as one opposed by PROFS in 2011. If passed, AB 305 would criminalize the use of scientific material previously derived from fetal tissue, which includes stem cell lines that have been in use for more than 30 years.

“PROFS has consistently opposed legislation that limits potentially life-saving research on campus,” said Judith Burstyn, PROFS president. “UW-Madison is an international leader in stem cell research, and this legislation could bring that research to a devastating halt.”

Robert Golden, dean of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and John Raymond, president and CEO of the Medical College of Wisconsin, wrote in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the legislation has far-reaching consequences:

“This proposed law only will ensure that promising lines of research will be shut down in Wisconsin. It will cut off work in our state on diseases that cripple and kill children and adults . . .  Some of our best researchers and private companies may be forced to leave Wisconsin in order to continue their work without criminal penalties, and this will have an absolutely chilling effect on the creation of new biotech companies in our state.”

Federal law allows for the use of fetal tissue research, and all research on this campus meets federal guidelines. UW officials believe as many as 100 researchers could be affected by the proposal.

Cures for Tomorrow, an non-partisan advocacy group, released a video (below) in 2013 in opposition to the legislation, noting that the “legislation would criminalize the current development of cures and treatments for the following conditions and diseases: spontaneous pregnancy loss and recurrent miscarriages; Down’s syndrome; infertility; maternal diseases of pregnancy, including preeclampsia, and other such conditions which limit human fertility and reproductive success, and prevent couples from having healthy babies; cancer treatments for diseases like childhood leukemia; improved transplant outcomes; new and more effective vaccines for flu, tuberculosis or typhoid fever or against multi drug resistance bacteria (so called “flesh eating” bacteria); and heart attacks and sudden cardiac death.”

 

PROFS Welcomes Burstyn as President

burstyn head shotPROFS welcomes Chemistry Professor Judith Burstyn as president and offers many thanks to Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Professor Grant Petty for his service as president in 2014-15. Petty remains a member of the steering committee.

Burstyn, former chair of the University Committee, has served on the PROFS steering committee since 2011. She was an instrumental participant in the lobbying effort that helped secure state bonding for a new Chemistry Building.

 

Irwin Goldman: UW Will Continue to Serve

Irwin Goldman

Irwin Goldman

Horticulture Professor Irwin Goldman offered a forward-looking view on the University of Wisconsin in the July 26 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Goldman is chair of the Horticulture department and has served on the PROFS Steering Committee since 2011. The letter is printed here with his permission.

Groucho Marx once said that politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.

As we entered 2015, Gov. Scott Walker and members of the Wisconsin Legislature found trouble with the University of Wisconsin System, attempting to reduce its mission statement to workforce development, separate it from state agency status, remove a large chunk of its budget and eliminate long-standing statutory provisions for shared governance and tenure; all under the guise of “helping” make us be more efficient, like a corporation. There were moments when those overtures made the Wisconsin winter seem even darker and longer than usual.

But, thankfully, universities are stewards of knowledge that transcends the vagaries of the market and the political ambitions of candidates. Our university has been serving people with extraordinary success for 167 years and will still be turning out creative, productive citizens after the ballots from scores of elections are counted, composted and returned to the soil. In fact, the current political climate in our state suggests an imperative for the professoriate: our job is perhaps more urgent than at any time in recent history.

Wisconsin has entrusted us with a critical role in collecting, analyzing and sharing the knowledge upon which its civil society depends. Nelson Mandela said that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” and hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin citizens use this life-changing experience every year to carve out their own future and secure the future of our state. Educators and educational institutions are therefore deputized to carry out a sacred duty; one that we embrace no matter who is in office and no matter which ephemeral ideas find political currency.

This fall, our students will return and we will pick up the mantle of teaching and learning once again, finding tremendous meaning and joy in a profession that focuses on helping people acquire knowledge. And politicians will take to the road, looking for trouble and finding it everywhere.

 

2015-17 Budget Passes Legislature, Awaiting Gubernatorial Approval

Capitol_dome_fall05_13988Both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature approved the 2015-17 biennial budget (Senate Bill 21) this week, sending the bill to Governor Scott Walker for his approval. The governor has not indicated if he will use his extensive veto powers to eliminate or change any sections of the proposal, but quick action is expected as Walker has said he would like the budget completed before he formally announces his run for the presidency.

The budget cuts $250 million from the University of Wisconsin System, removes tenure protections and shared governance language from state statutes, outlines new procedures to fire tenured professors, and freezes in-state tuition for two years. Walker originally asked for a $300 million budget cut and full public authority for UW System.

PROFS lobbied vigorously against the tenure and shared governance proposals and massive budget cuts, communicating with members of the Joint Finance Committee and sharing formal statements on the budget and tenure with the entire legislature.

Yesterday, Chancellor Rebecca Blank sent two letters to Governor Walker requesting vetoes relating to tenure and shared governance and indefinite academic staff appointments:

Tenure and Shared Governance

Indefinite Academic Staff Appointments

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